by Kimberly Yim, guest blogger
On February 26, 2016, I will be traveling to DR Congo and Tanzania with an amazing group of women. Why? Because I have joined the One Million Thumbprints campaign and because I am going to climb a really big mountain! Before we start our climb, my team and I will meet women who are survivors of gender-based violence in DR Congo. I am humbled by the opportunity to hear and share their stories and to shed light on what it is really like to live in one of the worst places in the world to be a woman.
After meeting these courageous women, we will travel to Tanzania where we will hike Mt. Kilimanjaro. Mt. Kilimanjaro is famously known as the “Mountain of Light”. It is 19,000 feet in altitude and is the highest freestanding mountain in the world. It will be a physically, emotionally, and spiritually challenging feat.
We will summit carrying thumbprints we have gathered on March 8, 2016 – International Women’s Day.This powerful gesture is a way of aligning with the suffering of the women we advocate for, and offering prayers for peace for women in all areas of extreme conflict.
I find the campaign compelling as it gives all of us a way to support women and children in war zones. It is difficult to wrap my mind around the extreme violence millions of women experience in these countries. These women survive only to then endure devastating physical and psychological trauma as they are often left crippled, shamed, and ostracized from their communities. In DR Congo alone seven out of ten women have experienced sexual violence.
One Million Thumbprints is a grassroots campaign advocating on behalf of survivors of gender based violence in war zones, specifically DR Congo, South Sudan, and Syria/Iraq.
It is a two fold campaign:
1) Advocate to the United Nations and other governing bodies to follow through on resolutions and laws already passed that will protect women in conflict zones.
2) Raise funds for proven organizations already on the ground in these countries who are meeting practical needs of women (food, shelter, rape kits, trauma care), training local leaders in negotiation and peacebuilding (making sure women are represented), and providing sustainable long term solutions (such as micro businesses, refugee resettlement, educational needs).
One Million Thumbprints is rooted in the story of Esperance, a woman from DR Congo. She was raped and left to die after her husband was murdered at the hands of rebels who violently attacked her village. Esperance would have simply been another statistic if it wasn’t for her Congolese sisters who found her and brought her to receive the physical and psychological help she needed. Esperance’s story would have been left untold and her suffering unrecognized if it wasn’t for storyteller and founder of the One Million Thumbprint campaign, Belinda Bauman, who heard Esperanza’s story as a mandate to do something. After Esperance shared her story with Belinda, she gave Belinda permission to “share it with the world” by signing a permission form with her thumbprint, her only form of signature as Esperance cannot read or write.
Her thumbprint was a mandate to “tell the world my story.” And my IM Team is doing just that! One Million Thumbprints tells the world not only the story of Esperance but of millions like her.
Please join me in using your voice on behalf of these women and supporting the programs that protect, care, and empower women to be vital instruments of peace and rebuilding in their communities.
To Kilimanjaro and beyond!
Kimberly Yim is the director of the SOCO Institute, the charitable arm of The SoCo Group, an oil distribution company in Southern California. As the author of Refuse To Do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern Day Slavery, Kim is compelled to do her part in ending all forms of modern day slavery and is passionate about helping the everyday citizen use his or her voice to do the same. She is the founder of the San Clemente Abolitionists, serves on the board of the Global Center For Women and Justice at Vanguard University, and serves on the Foreign Affairs Chair, Congressmen Ed Royce’s Human Trafficking Congressional Advisory Committee. She lives in her hometown of San Clemente, California with her husband, John and their two children, Malia and Scotty.